There's something to be said for driving a car you're not overly concerned about. It's not that you'll aim for road construction barrels with a front fender or anything (though we've probably all dreamed of watching them pop into the air like in the movies), it's just that when someone slams the door or closes the hood with a little more enthusiasm than needed, it doesn't make you cringe. Need a place to sit? The fender's right there, and it's even warm. Dirt parking lot after a rain storm? Donuts! Pulling into the restaurant for dinner? There's a nice parking place right up front there near the door, and you don't have to worry about door dings. Maybe some of the dirt will even jump off onto the new Volvo you just parked next to. Or the '81 Camaro on your other side.
When you get over worrying about stone chips and such, you might actually enjoy driving the car. You'll also enjoy more of the things around you, like the scenery, the rumble of the pipes, the feel of the road under your tires, and the smell of trans fluid burning off the crossover pipe. Well, maybe that's cause for concern, but you get the point. There's just something rewarding about driving a car that's "nothing special."
But despite this Challenger's rough and tumble (neglected?) appearance, it is something special. In fact, this car was built to look like this. Half the dirt on the car is actually brown paint, sprayed on to make it look dirty by Fox Television for the 1996 remake of Vanishing Point. This and a handful of other Challengers were used (and abused) by the production company during the filming of the movie. Three cars survived the filming intact, a fourth was dissected and mounted to the back of a flatbed truck for the interior filming, and a fifth was the irresistible object that hit the immovable bulldozer. Ted Stephens of Stephens Performance supplied Fox with hoods and other parts to give the Challengers the appearance of R/Ts. After the production company was done with them, Ted bought all four remaining cars by sealed bid and carted them back to his Alabama home. The "number one" car was the pretty one in the movie used for close-ups (originally a Lime 383/Auto R/T) and has just been given a complete concours-style restoration. That car's original engine was replaced with a 440 for filming, and didn't sport the Hemi until the resto. Really dedicated Vanishing Point fans will remember that there was in fact a Hemi shown under the hood in one scene: Hollywood liberty was taken, and a '69 Charger was called upon for the beauty shot (hence the wrong-for-a-Challenger air cleaner assembly).
The number three car, a '73 318/auto cobbled together to look like a '70, is on display at Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum in Sevierville, Tennessee, and remains in as-filmed condition, including its original engine and trans. The car shown here is the number two car used to shoot most of the chase scenes, and is originally a 318/auto, which was yanked in favor of a 440 and 727 trans, while the 831/44-inch was filled with 4.56 gears. This Challenger was also left in as-filmed condition, and only made celebrity appearances with Ted and his wife Jackie at Mopar shows across the country until we drove it from Denver to California.